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Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust

14. Mr. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): What discussions his Department has had with Leeds Teaching Hospitals trust about its deficit. [202215]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Miss Melanie Johnson): The West Yorkshire strategic health authority is responsible for overseeing the Leeds trust's financial recovery plan. There have been no direct discussions between the Department and the trust management about this matter.

Mr. Challen: The deficit locally is generally described as historical—in other words, it dates from the period in the 1980s and early 1990s when the NHS in Leeds was underfunded—but it has been a perpetual millstone around our necks in Leeds. Is my hon. Friend willing to meet me and colleagues from Leeds to discuss a way to sort out that problem?
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Miss Johnson: Of course; I am always happy to meet colleagues on matters of concern to them, but I should point out to my hon. Friend that our view is that the deficit has arisen entirely in-year and is not historical, as he suggests.


Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment

Secretary Margaret Beckett, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Blunkett, Secretary Tessa Jowell, Mr. Peter Hain and Alun Michael, presented a Bill to amend section 6 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998; to make provision for the gating of certain minor highways; to make provision in relation to vehicles parked on roads that are exposed for sale or being repaired; to make provision in relation to abandoned
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vehicles and the removal and disposal of vehicles; to make provision relating to litter and refuse, graffiti, fly-posting and the display of advertisements; to make provision relating to the transportation, collection, disposal and management of waste; to make provision relating to the control of dogs and to amend the law relating to stray dogs; to make provision in relation to noise; to provide for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and for the making of grants relating to the quality of the built environment; to amend the law relating to abandoned shopping and luggage trolleys; to amend the law relating to statutory nuisances; to amend section 78L of the Environmental Protection Act 1990; to amend the law relating to offences under Schedule 1 to the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 11].
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Point of Order

12.31 pm

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Members on both sides of the House and, indeed, a number of national governing bodies for sport were expecting today a major announcement from the Government about the future of sport. It was trailed extensively on the Central Council for Physical Recreation website. Apparently, it has been pulled, and no explanation has been given. Have you any guidance to offer us on what has happened? Have the Government communicated to you any time when they might make that announcement in the near future?

Mr. Speaker: I have not had any contact with any Minister regarding this matter.
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Orders of the Day

Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

12.32 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

When I spoke a week ago yesterday in the debate on the Queen's Speech, I indicated that much of the Bill will be non-controversial and have the support of the whole House. We are dealing in the main, therefore, with issues of detail, clarification and, in some cases, interpretation. There will undoubtedly be party political differences about some aspects of the Bill, particularly in Committee, but on the whole people agree that we are right to set up the Serious Organised Crime Agency and to underpin it with the changes in powers, thereby building on the reforms and modernisation that we have already put in place in relation to policing in this country and through the proposals in the police White Paper.

We published "One Step Ahead" as part of the consultation process on the Bill and on the Serious Organised Crime Agency. I remember that the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis), the shadow Home Secretary, said a week ago yesterday that we were not always one step ahead in dealing with organised crime. He might be surprised to hear that I agree with him. There is a real problem in taking on the most sophisticated criminals in the world, who understand the tenets of capitalism a lot better than capitalists do. Their grasp of how to deal with a market internationally, how to change their methodology and how to use new techniques is breathtaking.

Although the massive increase in police numbers, the reduction in crime and the creation of community support officers, which are referred to in the Bill, are critical in building the infrastructure—I notice that Bill Bratton, the former commissioner of New York and now of Los Angeles police, referred this morning on the "Today" programme to the critical importance of interlinking neighbourhood policing and tackling antisocial behaviour in building confidence and then helping with organised crime—the challenge of the decade is undoubtedly to get grips with cross-border international crime.

All nations are considering the interrelationship between organised crime and terrorism and the relationship between trans-national travel and improved communication, by which I mean the use of satellite, the internet and mobile phones, as well as arrangements in terms of people's ease of communication when they travel. All of that has transformed, within the past few decades, the nature of criminality and the way in which people exploit the previous understanding of what was necessary.

If the methodology and the sophistication of techniques have changed, we need to change rapidly with them. That will be the case year on year. There will have to be changes in the way in which the service operates, even as a combined entity, linking investigation, intelligence and its work with the
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prosecution services. Of course, there must also be the methodology of developing the technology that matches that of the organised criminals.

Organised criminality costs our economy and commercial life at least £20 billion each year. Some £1.3 billion of that is the result of identity fraud alone, never mind the massive investment in hours that it takes to sort that out, not just in terms of policing and the criminal justice service, but of everyone else whose productivity and lives are affected by it.

We have been getting better at getting to grips with that. In the 18 months to the end of 2003, which are the latest figures, we have disrupted and confiscated 11 tonnes of heroin and 26 tonnes of cocaine. The sophistication of the work with other countries to disrupt the supply of cocaine from Colombia and the work that is taking place in the Caribbean is impressive. Just three weeks ago, I was talking to Dominique de Villepin, the Interior Minister in France, about how we might step up that work by sharing resources and by sharing the task across the Caribbean with the Americans in the light of what is happening in central and south America and the West Indies.

We have not been as successful in dealing with trafficking and organised criminality in terms of the poppy supply and heroin from Afghanistan, which is a primary concern for this country. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs spoke yesterday about getting to grips with the problem. On the day that President Karzai is inaugurated, I think that we would want to work with a new democratic and strong Afghanistan in taking additional steps to ensure that we get to grips with what is literally a disabler and sometimes a killer on our streets.

These days we have to think internationally about the way in which change takes place. I am proud that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is on the Front Bench, because it emphasises the importance not only of tackling the causes of criminality and of putting in place preventive measures to give people alternative livelihoods but of clamping down on enforcement. Unless we do so, organised criminals will pay the subsistence farmers, whether in south America or Afghanistan, sums that they could never get by growing existing crops. Development aid, development of trade and tackling the causes of drug production are therefore critical.

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